Thursday, June 21, 2012

Does the Fracking Water Kill the Fracking Forest?

The Oil and Gas companies argue that National Forests were created for multi-use and therefore they have as much right to access as any other shareholder. But how can you share something after you have destroyed it.

A test fracking water spill last year revealed the surprising toxicity of Fracking Water.

Fracking Fatally Destroys Forests In As Little As Two DaysThe study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service concluded that fracking causes alarming damage to the environment in as little as two days.
More than 75,000 gallons of fracking fluids, which are injected deep underground to free shale gas and then return to the surface, were applied to the assigned plot over a two day period during June 2008. The following effects were reported in the study:

  • Within two days all ground plants were dead;
  • Within 10 days, leaves of trees began to turn brown. Within two years more than half of the approximately 150 trees were dead; and
  • “Surface soil concentrations of sodium and chloride increased 50-fold as a result of the land application of hydrofracturing fluids…” These elevated levels eventually declined as chemical leached off-site. The exact chemical composition of these fluids is not known because the chemical formula is classified as confidential proprietary information.

  • The findings, which looked at the effects of land application of fracking fluids on a quarter-acre section of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, found that  After two years, half of the trees were dead and the soil composition was radically altered. “The explosion of shale gas drilling in the East has the potential to turn large stretches of public lands into lifeless moonscapes,” concluded Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

When asked if there had been any similar effects on vegetation observed at such spill sites, Pennsylvania environmental regulators said yes.
“In the Northern part of Pennsylvania, there have been several spills where frack flowback escaped the well pad and containment area and caused damage to vegetation, particularly fields that adjoin the well sites,” wrote Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Katy Gresh in an email.
She added, “There have also been a handful of truck accidents in which frack flowback water spilled and damaged vegetation. In some cases, DEP’s Environmental Cleanup program staff has worked to remediate such areas.”
The original study abstract is below:

Forest impacts of fracking
Journal of Environmental Quality - Abstract
1.  doi: 10.2134/jeq2010.0504Vol. 40 No. 4, p. 1340-1344

Received:Nov 23 , 2011

* Corresponding author(s):
Land Application of Hydrofracturing Fluids Damages a Deciduous Forest Stand in West Virginia
1.     Mary Beth Adams *a
1.     aUSDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, P.O. Box 404, Parsons, WV 26287. Assigned to Associate Editor Fien Degryse
In June 2008, 303,000 L of hydrofracturing fluid from a natural gas well were applied to a 0.20-ha area of mixed hardwood forest on the Fernow Experimental Forest, West Virginia. During application, severe damage and mortality of ground vegetation was observed, followed about 10 d later by premature leaf drop by the overstory trees. Two years after fluid application, 56% of the trees within the fluid application area were dead. Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. was the tree species with the highest mortality, and Acer rubrum L. was the least affected, although all tree species present on the site showed damage symptoms and mortality. Surface soils (0–10 cm) were sampled in July and October 2008, June and October 2009, and May 2010 on the fluid application area and an adjacent reference area to evaluate the effects of the hydrofracturing fluid on soil chemistry and to attempt to identify the main chemical constituents of the hydrofracturing fluid. Surface soil concentrations of sodium and chloride increased 50-fold as a result of the land application of hydrofracturing fluids and declined over time. Soil acidity in the fluid application area declined with time, perhaps from altered organic matter cycling. This case study identifies the need for further research to help understand the nature and the environmental impacts of hydrofracturing fluids to devise optimal, safe disposal strategies.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Who Owns the Fracking Water?

Who Owns the Fracking Water?
The use of freshwater resources by the oil and gas industry to frack wells in Arkansas and in other states to produce shale gas should alarm concerned citizens. Thirty-three states have oil and/or natural gas production and, according to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, more than 90% of U.S. oil and natural gas wells use hydraulic fracturing. Tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands— more wells are planned across the country over the next decade.
According to the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission as of February 2012, there were over 4000 active gas wells in the Fayetteville Shale of Central Arkansas with the potential for development of 14,000 more wells over the next 20 years.

In June 2011, Argonne National Laboratories produced a report for the US Dept. of Energy on “Water Management Practices Used by Fayetteville Shale Gas Producers”. The report focused on “how gas producers obtain water supplies used for drilling and hydraulically fracturing wells, how that water is transported to the well sites and stored, and how the wastewater from the wells (flowback and produced water) is managed.”
The report includes figure 5 below which shows the distribution of the active wells in Arkansas.
The report describes three types of water issues that arise from shale gas development in the Fayetteville Shale. Those three issues are:
1.      Controlling the stormwater runoff from disturbed areas,

2.      Obtaining sufficient freshwater supply to conduct frac jobs on new wells, and

3.      Managing the flowback water and produced water from the well.

The report states:
·         The volume of water needed to fracture a well is an estimated 2.9 million gallons per well.

·         Due to multiple fracking cycles, actual operator data is an average of 4.3 million gallons of water used per well in the Fayetteville Shale (Mantell 2010a).

·         It is estimated that future Fayetteville Gas Drilling will average about 1300 wells per year.

·         Multiplying these per-well volumes by the extrapolated number of new wells completed in a future high production year gives an annual volume of 4.1 to 5.8 billion gallons of water needed for a full year.

·         Assuming the water is required evenly over the whole year yields an estimated daily volume requirement of 11.2 to 15.8 million gallons/day.

This amount of water drawn from only a few counties in the state represents nearly 17% of water used daily by livestock in the entire state in 2005. Since the freshwater used freely by the oil and gas companies is returned from the well as wastewater it must be disposed of properly. This usually means being pumped down into injection wells.

To dispose of this wastewater there are currently 14 injection wells in the Fayetteville shale region, some of which have been associated with recent earthquake swarms. Due to these earthquakes, the State of Arkansas has imposed a moratorium on injection wells over a large area of the Fayetteville Shale Gas play. It is not known what is currently being done with the wastewater from the active wells or what the companies plan to do with the huge amounts of wastewater projected over the next 20 years.
Clearly something needs to be done about the uncontrolled use of freshwater on a massive scale which the oil and gas industry has planned. This is not a local or even a state problem and solutions must be found at the national level. At the very least, oil and gas companies should be asked to pay for the water they use and pollute if only to provide a fund to clean up of any future frack water spills. More importantly, a comprehensive water use plan should be developed which restricts the amount of water they could use impound in a given area per season. A baseline study of water quality in private water wells must be conducted and paid for by the industry. This is the only way that companies can be held accountable for the inevitable decline in water quality as the result of spills, earthquakes or faulty casing jobs. Finally, alternative sources and methods for frac technologies must be developed so that in periods of drought in Arkansas and other states, no surface water withdrawal will be permitted.
For further info see my website
David Lincoln
Enviro-Health Tracs
June 18, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Who Owns the Fracking Forests?

Who Owns the Fracking Forests?

This week marks the continuation of a recent federal program to lease mineral rights in National Forests for fracking or the hydraulic fracturing of gas-bearing shales. From 2011 to mid-2012, the federal government has leased or scheduled for auction more than 350,000 acres of shale gas mineral rights. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had planned this week to lease more than 90,000 acres of public land in 4 southern states (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas) but the leasing of nearly 40,000 acres of Forest in Alabama has been postponed due to local protests. The remaining 50,000 acres will be auctioned off on Thurs, June 14, 2012 despite holding no public hearings and only minimal federal notices. Although leases for private lands have gone for thousands of dollars per acre, previous public land auctions have yielded bids averaging only about $40 per acre with rentals at a mere $1.50 per acre per year for 10 year leases with extensions for gas production. For these paltry prices, the companies will be allowed to use all the freshwater they need and will be expected to reinject all the polluted water and chemicals they produce. Of course, reinjection of fracking waters in disposal wells has recently been shown to be associated with earthquakes even in states where earthquakes are rare.

The next forest tracts are scheduled to be leased in Sept 2012 and could involve over 20,000 acres in some states. Concerned citizens would be wise to monitor these lease sales carefully. The sales are administered in Springfield Virginia and lease maps are available below Some of the proposed leases are adjacent to scenic rivers and streams and recreational campgrounds. So it seems that the oil and gas industry and the BLM Eastern Division see no limits to this development activity. This means that the informed public like you will have to ultimately determine who owns the Fracking Forests.

For further information see my website at

David Lincoln
Enviro-Health Tracs
June 2012